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Squabble Between Calgary Catholic School Board and Bishop Over the Use of Bingo

Calgary Bishop Fred Henry issued a pastoral letter recently that if the Calgary Catholic School District Board does not stop the use of bingo as a tool for fundraising events by the schools he will not join in the Calgary Catholic School District board yearly opening meetings that will take place this fall. The schools use the bingo proceeds for note worthy causes like scholarship programs for the poor but deserving kids, to build new facilities that will help students to have a place where they could work and learn more new things. He will use everything in his power to strip Catholic schools that will not follow and defy the order of not using bingo as a form of fundraising event and will use money from what he considers gambling revenues, of their Catholic title.

Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary first sent the Pastoral letter to the Calgary Catholic School district board last December, reiterating his moral concerns. Because, in his view, gambling is being used to expoit the poor. Therefore, in his view, using gambling revenues even for a good cause is wrong.

But the Calgary Catholic School District board is not retreating from its argument with Calgary Bishop Fred Henry over the use of bingo and casino events as fundraisers which will be used by the schools for scholarship grants, added funds for the school's programs like music, drama and athletics and many more.

Bingo as a tool for fundraising has been the norm for a very long time and it is up to the discretion of every school whether they want to or not use it as a source of revenue.

Chairman of the Calgary Catholic School District board Cathie Williams reiterated that she and her fellow board members and trustees are not ignoring Bishop Fred Henry's directive and that Gambling is not wrong itself; it only becomes wrong when people playing it have no self-control over theirselves and becomes addictive and spent all his time playing the game and doing anything anymore productive things.

She also said that even parents of their students are joining the game and in effect, helping to raise funds for the school where their children are studying. They are not going there to gamble and throw away their hard earned money for nothing. They are participating in a charitable act that will benefit a lot of individuals.

Chairman Cathie Williams also disagrees with Calgary Bishop Fred Henry's statement that their decision to use bingo or any related to it as a source of revenue, as a failure of the Catholic leadership and insist that, it is up to each individual school to decide whether they want to use revenues generated from bingo and other forms of gambling.

However, one of the trustees on the board, Lois Burke-Gaffney agrees with Bishop Fred Henry's position saying that it is just the personal position of Bishop Henry on the issue, that it is a "Moral" issue to begin with and that is abusing the poor through the use of gambling and the school board should instead protest on the inadequate funding for schools by the provincial government which is why the school needed to raise additional funding through bingo and casino gaming in the first place.

The trustees of the Calgary Catholic School District voted to allow schools to raise funds with the use of bingo and casino gaming but provided that they will donate some of the revenue garnered from the casino and bingo games to the rehabilitation of gambling addicts and education for students about the risks that gambling entails if you are not careful in dealing with it.

Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary has not been available to give his side of the story and comment on the matter.


Sunday, August 20, 2006
Danny Hudson

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